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PUV drivers slam ‘Uber-pricing’

OVER 100,000 drivers and operators on Wednesday called for the suspension of the accreditation of mobile application-based Uber over its price surging scheme during period of high demand for transportation.

The 1-Utak party-list, headed by Vigor Mendoza, filed a petition with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, challenging the operation of Uber and other transportation network companies (TNCs) without a fare matrix.

During  a hearing on 1-Utak’s petition, Mendoza said Uber’s price surging is “unfair,” and is triggering public utility vehicle    drivers to shift to driving the app-based private cars.

“Our intention here is for the government to level the playing field,” he told The Standard.

“Uber is charging a passenger four times higher than the usual taxi fare during rush hours. The price surging has a trickle-down effect. Much as operators of PUVS want to upgrade their units, they cannot do so because their fare rates are fixed and regulated by the LTFRB. They cannot set their own fare increase to enable them improve the quality of their units and services, unlike the Uber,” he told The Standard.

He said Uber operating in the Philippines is 97 percent or 99 percent owned by a Dutch company, adding under the law, a public transport must be 60 percent owned and operated by a Filipino citizen.

In May, the Department of Transportation and Communications issued Department Order 2015-11, directing the LTFRB to allow the accreditation of TNCs under a new transport service category and grant the companies the authority to set their own fares.

Earlier, LTFRB board member Ariel Enrile Inton Jr. said at least 5,000 to 8,000 new vehicles would apply for accreditation with the LTFRB.

“There is already a migration from being PUVS drivers to Uber and GrabTaxi drivers. There are jeepney drivers who moonlight as Uber drivers during rush hours,” Mendoza noted.

He called on the LTFRB to nullify Department Order 2015-11 and “to impose a regulated fare rates on the app-based transport service.”

But Inton said the LTRFB does not have the power to nullify DoTC Secretary Emilio Joseph Abaya’s order, the LTFRB has just an “oversight” function to regulate Uber’s price surging.

“How can we do void the order if the LTRFB is under the DoTC?” he told The Standard.

He said the operators of passenger jeepneys have already expressed the intention to seek the deregulation of their fare rates during rush hours, storms, heavy downpour and other circumstances when passenger demand is higher.

“It is very difficult for passengers to take a ride under such instances. Are you [Uber] not taking advantage of the commuters? So we asked the to justify their price surging. That is where the LTFRB steps in,” he added.

Mendoza, however, cited a Supreme Court decision, directing the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Department of Finance to stay independent and act in accordance with the law.

“SC told SEC to be neutral and impartial, and rule accordingly with the law. It is the duty of SEC, not of its power, to do so,” he said.       

“The same principle can be applied to the LTFRB, to decide on its own, do what is right and void orders that   would supersede the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.”

If the LTFRB would continue to ignore 1-Utak’s plea, Mendoza said they would elevate the issue to the high court.

He, however, clarified 1-Utak as a party-list group is not taking part in the 2016 elections.

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